Play Detective Before You Sign That New Lease!

I just started apartment hunting and already nearly signed a bad lease. How close was it? I’d already put down the deposit. Luckily, I found out that the management company(starts with D, rhymes with Kermont) was legendary for being horrible to its tenants. I found out. . . through some smart detective work.

You’re probably imaging me wearing a black trench coat and sunglasses hiding in the bushes, staking out potential new apartments, hmmm? Well, that does, actually, sound kinda fun, but most of the work I’ve been doing has been sitting at home in my pj’s late at night with my handy-dandy laptop. It was actually my new roommate, a friend of a friend, who first thought to utilize le Google for apartment stalking, cough, research purposes.

As for the potential new apartment, we’d already seen a bunch of gross, nasty apartments the week before and thought that we’d finally scored with an early-Saturday morning Craigslist search. Running over to the open house listed, we checked out the place and it seemed great. How great? Well, it had a living room, 2 real bedrooms, a kitchen, various windows/closets, and full bath. I know, what high standards we have! But, in NYC, if you like a place, you have to pounce on it lest someone else takes it first and then you’re back at square one.

Both of us looked at each other, nodded, and filled out the apartment application. It was a little weird because the woman showing the apartment clearly knew little to nothing about it or the application process, but as we really liked the place. . . it seemed that our only option was to apply and plunk down the $700 deposit.

To be honest, we were pretty pumped. Shortest apartment search ever! Huzzah!

Then Kelly, my new roommate, thought that it couldn’t hurt to look up the management company, just to make sure. Gawd. We found 30 HORRIBLE reviews. Like, really, terrible bad. And they were posted all over Yelp, Citysearch, and everywhere in between. Complaints ranged from not returning security deposits, to accounting mis-management to a boiler breaking in winter and the management company demanding that tenants chip in to fix it. Yeah, Kelly did the search around 10pm that night and you can bet that neither one of us slept a wink.

Before consumer-driven reviews sprung up, the best chance one had to understand the kind of situation they are getting themselves into was to luck out and grill a resident of the new apt building and hope that they knew what they were talking about. And, frankly, that’s still good strategy. Except, we’d done that and while the person we spoke with mentioned a broken bathroom mirror/cabinet, she seemed otherwise ‘OK’ with the place. And, you know, maybe she is. But, through a quick Google search, we were able to find many, many tenants who were NOT OK with the management company in the least.

It’s one thing to end up with a bad landlord — but do yourself a favor and do your detective work so you can do your best to avoid it! Now. . . how to get our deposit back?! Well, I’ll let you know shortly. . .

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Author My First Apartment

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I've lived in apartments in 6 cities (including 2 foreign countries). Does that make me an expert? As of now, my ceiling isn't leaking and I don't have rodents (knock on wood) -- so I'm going to say yes . . . but ask me again tomorrow:) These days, I'm enjoying life Chicago style, but my years in Brooklyn are never far from my mind. P.S. By day I work at, but these opinions are totally, 100% my own.

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